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World's Largest Cathedral...
Which Edifice Takes the Title?

Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York CityGood question.

Tallest? Widest? Do you want that in square feet or cubic meters? Just the cathedral, or include the chapter house, the cloisters, or any other part of the complex?

The dilemma comes into clearer focus if you take into account local chambers of commerce - who are good at attracting tourists with tall tales...

Size Matters

Yet size alone does not a cathedral make.

A cathedral is defined as a church featuring a cathedra, or bishop's chair, to which local parishes report in as a sort of regional headquarters.

The world's largest religious structure is St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, but it is too big - ironically - and too universal to be considered a cathedral.

Which leaves the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine. It is the focal point for the Episcopal church in New York, and therefore a true cathedral. Measuring in at 121,000 square feet, it is the size of two American football fields and properly placed at the top of many 'World's Largest Cathedrals' lists.

From there, it gets a little murkier. If you read any of a handful of cathedral brochures throughout Europe you'll find that several cathedrals claim the title. However, not one of them agrees with any other, and only the most impolitic of us would point out the fact. (Well, OK, there it is).

For now, the 'Top Ten ' question officially goes unanswered. That is, until a team of engineers begins setting the ground rules to undertake an unbiased worldwide survey. In the meantime, an unofficial survey around the Net has provided us with the following list:

The Top Ten Tallest Cathedral Spires
(source: and official cathedral sites)

Cathedral Location Style Date built Height
ft m
Ulm Ulm,
Gothic 14th century 528.0 161.0
Cologne Cologne, Germany Gothic 1248–1560,
515.0 157.0
Rouen (Notre Dame) Rouen, France Gothic 12th–15th centuries 495.0 151.0
Strasbourg Strasbourg, France Gothic 1015–1439 475.0 142.0
St. Stephen's Vienna, Austria Gothic 1359 - 1511 450.0 137.0
Salisbury Salisbury, England Gothic 1220–1260 404.0 123.0
Antwerp (Notre Dame) Antwerp, Belgium Gothic 14th–16th centuries 400.0 122.0
Uppsala Uppsala, Sweden Gothic 1287–1435 389.0 118.7
Chartres (Notre Dame) Chartres, France Gothic 12th–13th centuries 375.0
Amiens (Notre Dame) Amiens, France Gothic 1220–1270,
14th century,
16th century
370.0 112.0

About the Author...
Visit the New York Carver website to take one of the virtual stonecarver's tours of Paris, New York, London, Venice and other international destinations and to learn more about stone, cathedrals and Gothic Architecture.

also see in Travel -> European Cathedral Tours


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